More commuter chaos expected during all-day Berlin strike

Commuters in Berlin and Brandenburg will be faced with yet more disruption as public transport workers walk out for the second time in two weeks.

More commuter chaos expected during all-day Berlin strike
Public transport strikes have taken place in eight German states this week. Photo: DPA

The trade union Verdi, which represents around 87,000 workers from 130 public transport companies, announced the strikes on Tuesday.

In Berlin, all trams and U-Bahn lines, as well as most busses, will come to a standstill for 24 hours from 3am on Friday. The strike in Brandenburg will last from 3am until noon.

Not every public transport service will be affected, however. In the capital, S-Bahn lines and regional trains will continue to run, as well as bus lines run by private companies.

READ ALSO: Public transport strikes across Germany cause major disruption

The following bus lines will be running as normal in Berlin:

106, 112, 140, 161, 163, 168, 175, 179, 184, 234, 275, 284, 334, 341, 349, 363, 369, 370, 371, 380, 399 , 740, 744, N12, N23, N34, N35, N39, N40, N52, N53, N56, N58, N60, N61, N62, N67, N68, N69, N77, N84, N88, N90, N91, N95, N97 

In Brandenburg, the list of companies taking part in the strike limited to the following:

  • ViP Verkehrsbetriebe Potsdam GmbH

  • Regiobus Potsdam Mittelmark GmbH

  • Havelbus Verkehrsgesellschaft mbH

  • die Verkehrsbetriebe Brandenburg an der Havel GmbH

Call for negotiations

Verdi hopes that further ‘warning strikes’ – or a lead up to further actions – will put pressure on public service employers to agree to their demands.

The trade union is calling for a nationwide standard pay for its workers to combat growing discrepancies in wages between different states.

Other demands include extra leave or special bonuses to relieve the strain on employees, as well as policies focussing on the recruitment and development of young workers. 

Risk to health?

As coronavirus cases in Germany continue to rise, concerns that the strike could heighten the risk of infection were rejected by Verdi representative Jeremy Arndt. 

“The employers are leaving us with no other choice, as they simply don’t want to negotiate with us”, he told the broadcaster RBB (Radio Berlin Brandenburg) on Thursday. “Unfortunately we have to go ahead.”

He pointed to the nationwide strike that took place on September 29th, arguing that “the expected chaos on public transport networks was avoided”. 

Many simply travelled by bike, and additional S-Bahn services prevented trains from becoming overcrowded. Arndt expects that “the same will be the case tomorrow”.

A bad time

The German Association of Municipal Employers (VKA) rejected Verdi’s demands once again on Tuesday, expressing criticism toward the second round of strikes. 

“These warning strikes are not just an unreasonable burden for the population, but also for the local transport companies already struggling to cope with the enormous loss of revenue caused by the coronavirus crisis”, said the association on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Explained: What sparked the protest culture of modern Germany?

Christine Behle, Vice President of Verdi, sees it differently. “We announce the strikes well in advance to allow citizens to plan around the situation”, she said. 

Public transport strikes have taken place in various German states over the course of the past week, with Hessen affected on Tuesday, Lower Saxony and Bremen on Wednesday, and Badem-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday. 

There will also be strikes until noon in nine towns in Bavaria, including Regensburg and Nuremberg, on Friday.

“We are already expecting that employers will change their tune and enter into negotiations with us,” said Arndt. “If not, expect the strikes to continue.”


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Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.